By Erik Hirshfield. Published by Birdlife International. 276 pages; numerous colour photographs and google maps . ISBN 978 0 9552607-5-9, Softback, £18.95
Review by Martin Birch
The first highly acclaimed edition of the colourful Rare Birds Yearbook was published in November 2008 (click here for review). The second, completely updated 2009 edition, is now available.
The 2009 Yearbook covers all 190 Critically Endangered species of the world.
The good news since 2008 is that six species have left the IUCN red list through down-listing since last year; Gorgeted Wood-quail, Marquesan Imperial Pigeon, Purple-backed Sunbeam, Gurney’s Pitta, Rondonia Bushbird and Somali Thrush. The bad news is that eight new ones have been upgraded to Critically Endangered; Tristan Albatross, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Tachira Antpitta, Reunion Cuckooshrike, Mariana Crow, Floreana Mockingbird, Akekee and Gough Bunting.
More concerning, two-thirds of Critically Endangered species have declining populations. Agriculture, logging and invasive species are the most severe threats, but a total of 24 species are now at risk from climate change and associated severe weather. A trend that will surely only increase in future and perhaps the most serious stress facing our endangered bird life. But there is hope for those species facing extinction. The Birdlife Preventing Extinctions programme is already delivering results. Indeed 117 species are already benefiting from targeted conservation through reduced threats.
Where do flocks of Sociable Lapwings spend the winter? How many Azores Bullfinches were counted in July 2008? This, and much more, is covered in the completely revised edition of the highly acclaimed Rare Birds Yearbook. Brand new features cover topics such as the Californian Condor Conservation Project and an encounter with the ‘Haribon’ whilst the authoritative directory with updated, current facts also has over 130 new photos of the world’s rarest birds. Indeed Blake Matheson’s account of staring into the eyes of a Philippine Eagle is perhaps one of the best ever written birding articles and worthy of buying the book for this alone. And the unique photo of a female Californian Condor eyeballing the scientist on its nest presents a once-in-a-lifetime ‘shot’.
As with the first edition the species accounts cover range and population, threats, conservation actions to date and conservation actions required. Most accounts are illustrated with stunning new, previously unpublished images of these rarest of the rare. This year a selection of a number of Endangered species are presented in a major feature.
The editor Erik Hirschfield lives in Malmo, Sweden. Parallel with his professional career he has authored or co-authored several books and numerous papers on birds, worked as an ornithological tour leader and served on rarities committees in Sweden and the Middle-east. Erik Hirschfield and Birdlife International are to be congratulated for this second edition - for the hours of research, the quality of sourced photography and their commitment to preventing further extinctions.
In his review of the Rare Birds Yearbook 2008 Simon Barnes wrote in The Times that it was “the best of books, the worst of books. It is a book of hope, it is a book of despair; it is a book of beauty, a book of ugliness; it is a book about human folly, it is a book about human wisdom." If you didn’t buy Rare Birds Yearbook 2008, then there’s no excuse not to buy the second edition.
You can buy this book now at www.rarebirdsyearbook.com and £4 goes straight to bird conservation.